By Brandon Hernandez
Craving a meal at that new place everyone's been talking about but can't justify forking over the dough? Here's your chance to dine without the need to dash. During San Diego Restaurant Week (SDRW), September 18-23, as many as 180 top-tier restos will offer foodies the chance to cross to-die-for dining spots off their lists-at prices that won't make them cross.
Since its debut in 2006, SDRW has evolved from an annual to a biannual event (held also in January), offering diners two weeks per year during which to enjoy three-course dinners- and now, for the first time, lunches-for as little as half the regular menu prices.
The brainchild of members of the local chapter of the California Restaurant Association (CRA), SDRW involves nearly all of the county's CRA members and has equated to great success for both the eateries and their patrons.
"Initially, Restaurant Week was established as a 'thank you' to the San Diego dining community," says Michael McGeath, a former CRA San Diego chapter president, whose Mission Hills restaurant, Brooklyn Girl Eatery, is slated to open later this year.
"(Now it) helps drive business forward by introducing thousands of diners to new establishments they may not have tried before,"
McGeath says. "It's also the impetus to bring guests back to restaurants they already know but might not have dined at recently."
A key motivator for diners is the fact that three-course dinners cost just $20, $30 or $40 (or $10, $15 or $20 for lunch), depending on the restaurant, creating the perfect conditions for experimentation.
SDRW is a winning deal for particitpating restaurants, too.
"Restaurant Week takes place during the slow times of the year, so it increases sales when restaurants need them the most," says Ingrid Croce, owner of Croce's in the Gaslamp and a CRA member who was integral in
implementing the first SDRW.
"I wanted to [help] bring Restaurant Week to San Diego to help our hospitality community be recognized as a dining destination.
Now, it's the biggest local dining event in San Diego and the second largest Restaurant Week in the country, behind only New York City."
To hear S.D. mentioned in the same culinary breath as The Big Apple makes you want to take a bite-and another...
From splurging at a buzz-worthy new eatery to savoring the old-school sophistication of a classic establishment, SDRW offers a smorgasbord of flavors. Here's a taste of how to navigate the week and spice up the experience.
Fresh Faces: Cavaillon
When Phillippe Verpiand took his dreamy foie gras and other French delicacies and left the building, North County foodies shed tears in their Coq au Vin. But fear not, there's a new and highly capable chef in the house, and SDRW provides the perfect opportunity to get a nibble of what Michael von Euw has cookin'.
Supping Sample: Housecured salmon with mustard dressing; locally-caught sea bass with ratatouille; crème brûlée trio-lavender, orange and chocolate.
Similar Options (with new chefs): Eden, Hillcrest; Pacifica Del Mar , Del Mar
14701 Via Bettona, Santaluz
Renewed Concepts: The Mediterranean Room
Don't judge a menu by its cover. The dining room on the lobby level of La Jolla's iconic La Valencia hotel may need some updating, but the food is right in line with current culinary trends. Expect simple, yet zesty tapas-style all-stars, punched up with the trademark flavors brought forth by Mediterranean herbs and spices.
Supping Sample: Crab crake fritter with poblano aioli; Lightning pilsner roasted Jidori chicken with squash risotto; stone fruit cheesecake.
Similar Options: Arterra (San Diego Marriott), Del Mar; Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, downtown; Kitchen 1540, Del Mar.
1132 Prospect St., La Jolla
Big Buzz: BO-Beau
What was once Thee Bungalow is now BO-beau Kitchen + Bar, located in bohemian ("BO") O.B., which sports a cozy, southern French motif. Diners are raving about chef Katherine Humphus' laidback and often communal take on contemporary cuisine.
Supping Sample: Goat cheese and roasted beet flatbread with curry onion jam; Boeuf Bourguignon with pancetta and fingerling potatoes.
Similar Options: Flavor Del Mar, Del Mar; Terra American Bistro, near SDSU; The Wine Vault, Downtown
4996 West Point Loma Blvd., Ocean Beach
Splurge Spots: George's California Modern
With a decades-long legacy as one of San Diego's top-tier eateries, George's California Modern could easily rest on its laurels, but owner George Hauer and executive chef Trey Foshee consistently kick up their
game with inventive and unique dishes incorporating fresh seafood reeled in from nearby sustainable sources.
Supping Sample: George's menu changes so often that they couldn't commit by press time, but expect one of Foshee's inventive take on sardines.
Similar Options: Amaya at the Grand Del Mar, Carmel Valley; NINE-TEN, La Jolla; Nobu San Diego, Downtown
1250 Prospect St., La Jolla
Classic Dining Rooms: Bertrand at Mister A's
New restaurants come and go, but for as long as many of us can remember, this topshelf, top-floor bastion for gourmet fare and incredible views has remained king of the hill-Bankers Hill. With consistency like that, you can bet they'll be every bit as good during SDRW as they've been all these years...at a fraction of the everyday price.
Supping Sample: duo of Brandt farm rib eye and short rib in a red wine reduction sauce; milk chocolate mousse bars, peanut nougat, caramel.
Similar Options: El Bizcocho, Rancho Bernardo; Marine Room, La Jolla; Mistral, Coronado
2550 Fifth Ave., Bankers Hill